New murals all the buzz on Ensign Seabees campus
Jennifer Bloomfield is happy to be back at the campus she attended nearly four decades ago.
She still has her supplies she brings to Ensign Intermediate School in Newport Beach each day. But these are now the supplies of an artist, not a student.
Bloomfield was recently contracted to paint seven murals on the Ensign campus.
Her longtime friend, Ensign Principal Samantha Payne, called her up a few months back. She saw an opportunity for the Costa Mesa-based artist.
“We’re doing a lot on this campus to make it a more inclusive, welcoming space, really focusing on bringing the kids and community together,” Payne said. “Over the summer, the district gave us a lot of love and attention by giving us some new flooring and new paint. They painted the entire outside, which looks beautiful and such an improvement, but it’s also a blank canvas.”
That’s where Bloomfield, who attended Ensign in the mid-1980s before graduating from Newport Harbor High in 1990, came in. She worked with Payne, taking paintings from her “Art By Bloomy” Instagram account that seemed like they could work.
There is a three-panel beach mural by Bloomfield in the Ensign library, which was recently renovated. On the side of the lifeguard tower, instead of a number, is a picture of the Ensign mascot — the Seabee.
Bloomfield also painted two murals in Ensign’s outside lunch area. One has the school’s core values of kindness, respect and perseverance. The other features a quote attributed to Socrates, “Be the kind of person you want people to think you are.”
She is currently working on a large wave mural on the back of a portable building. And the final mural, in a hallway on the campus interior, will feature a transition from the beach inland, from Newport Beach to Costa Mesa.
Ensign is one of the few schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District that draws students from both cities.
“I’m really stoked to be here,” Bloomfield said. “I was on the newspaper when I was here, the Seabee Buzz, and I still have the old newspapers. And I did the artwork on the newspapers and stuff. What I really like is the team that [Payne] has developed here. She’s just got her heart in the right place with her leadership. The custodians, the secretaries, the teachers, the kids. There’s just an energy here that’s so positive.”
Payne, who like Bloomfield is a former teacher at Corona del Mar High, is in her second year as Ensign principal. She has worked to turn the campus into a more inviting place for everyone who steps foot on it. The school is currently launching a “Zen Den” well space for students and teachers next door to the administration building; the official grand opening is set for later this month.
Payne said parents raised $10,000 through the Ensign Fund nonprofit foundation to create the Zen Den. Meanwhile, the Ensign PTA has helped fund not only Bloomfield’s murals, but school T-shirts with the Seabee and Ensign’s core values.
“You can’t just rinse and repeat pre-COVID things,” Payne said. “As a school, our overall focus for the last two years has been unity and connection. Everything kind of feeds into that. Jen’s murals play a huge role in the campus beautification, in that sense of ownership. We’re Newport Beach, we’re Costa Mesa, we’re both, and that’s what makes this school so amazing, that richness.”
Bloomfield is happy for the opportunity. She said she has dealt with health issues related to digestion problems in recent years. They forced her to take unpaid leave from being a math teacher and swimming coach at CdM in 2018.
Three years later, she made the difficult decision to focus on her artwork full time, rather than coming back to teaching during the peak of COVID-19 and dealing with stress that could cause her health condition to worsen.
“I don’t know that I’m a muralist,” said Bloomfield, though she said she does feel inspired by the work of a talented muralist like Melissa Murphy of Huntington Beach. “ I haven’t totally figured out my direction with this. Doors are opening, and I’m walking through them as they open.”
The doors to Ensign indeed did open for Bloomfield, who is doing her part to make her alma mater more beautiful one paintbrush stroke at a time.
“I feel lucky, I’ll say that,” she said. “Something terrible happened with my health, and then it turned into something really amazing. I would have never left teaching, I loved it, but this is another chapter that I’m pretty excited about.”
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